Coping with Bladder Weakness

There are several different types of bladder weakness, but the most common is Stress Bladder Weakness.  In most cases, weakened pelvic floor muscles are the cause.  When they come under pressure (a cough, a sneeze or lifting something heavy) they let go, resulting in an involuntary release of urine.

Lifestyle and health factors that can lead to Stress Bladder Weakness:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth, because they put strain on the pelvic floor muscles

  • High impact activities such as running

  • Back or sports injuries

  • Constipation and straining

  • Being overweight

  • Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Lack of oestrogen

  • Chemotherapy

  • Family history (like mother, like daughter)

Are you in denial?

Many women don’t want to admit they have a problem.  Others modify their behaviour to cope – drink less, avoid laughing, ‘hold on’ when sneezing or coughing, wear two pairs of undies, wear long tops and dark colours or go the toilet often to keep the pressure off their bladder.  Few women seek medical advice, believing it’s just part of getting older.

Confront the issue and be prepared

Ignoring your weak bladder won’t make it go away. The best way forward is to begin a programme of pelvic floor exercises, combined with purpose-built protection while you get your muscles back into shape. It might be 8 to 12 weeks before you notice any improvement, so a ‘just in case’ absorbent pad should be part of your strategy. Period pads aren't built for this purpose. It may seem easier to use ‘normal’ pads to avoid embarrassment, but they’re designed to absorb little by little over a long period of time.  

Pelvic Floor Workout

Fit pelvic floor muscles are essential for good bladder control.  To improve the tone of your pelvic floor, do these simple exercises for 5 minutes twice a day:

Before you start:

Identify your pelvic floor muscle by trying to stop urine mid flow while on the toilet.  This action isn’t part of the workout, it’s simply a way to locate the muscle.

  • Squeeze up and hold for 5 seconds, then slowly release for 5 seconds.  Rest for 10 seconds

  • Once this gets easier, hold the squeeze for 8 seconds then release for 8 seconds.

  • Try not to squeeze your tummy, thighs or buttocks, and don’t hold your breath.

  • You can perform pelvic floor exercises anywhere – at the traffic lights, sitting at your desk, in front of the TV during ad breaks, while you’re ironing.

Other tips and techniques:

  • Hold on for longer, because continually emptying your bladder can reduce its size and can reduce its size and encourage it to hold less.

  • Drink at least 6 – 8 glasses of water a day.  It dilutes the urine, which helps to reduce irritation to the bladder walls and the possibility of urinary tract infections.

  • Limit intake of alcohol and caffeine.

  • Avoid constipation and keep your weight in a healthy range.

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